Giving Symbolic Gifts of Recovery This Hanukkah

Contributor: Adina Fradkin, RD, LDN, Dietitian at The Renfrew Center of Baltimore

article Giving Gifts at Hanukkah - Adina Fradkin photoI’ve heard many reasons and stories as to why presents are given during Hanukkah and let’s face it- who doesn’t like presents? At The Renfrew Center, the country’s largest network of eating disorder facilities, we have a wonderful tradition of giving symbolic gifts to the girls and women who graduate from our residential, day treatment or intensive outpatient programs.

It is a special time when our community comes together to celebrate the individual’s transition out of our treatment and furthers their journey towards recovery.

Meaningful Twist on Hanukkah Gift Giving

If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder or in recovery, a meaningful twist on our Renfrew tradition is giving similar metaphorical gifts to yourself or anyone you are supporting on each night of Hanukkah. This activity is beneficial in two different ways.

Love and Support

First, it’s a very special way to show your love and support. If you have a daughter, son, sister, brother, or friend struggling with an eating disorder, or perhaps thriving in recovery, this is a heartfelt way to show encouragement of their journey.

Embracing the Gifts

Second, if you are struggling with an eating disorder or in recovery yourself, you know that often the hardest gifts to think of are ones that we give ourselves. Take some time to embrace the gifts below or think of special ones that you would like to give yourself on each of the eight nights of Hanukkakh.

I hope that just as giving these gifts at our graduations has become a cherished tradition at Renfrew, you can find fun and creative ways to incorporate the messages of hope, acceptance, and recovery into each of the eight nights of Hanukkah. There is no end to the imaginative ways to give symbolic gifts to yourself or someone dear.

Night One – Positivity:

The importance of a positive outlook is needed to fight against the eating disorder. Having this kind of perspective can help you enter each day with an empowered, strong mindset.

Perhaps you have experienced the change when a positive outlook is applied to trying situations; difficult situations are often actually less problematic when your positivity shines though.

Night Two – Openness:

menorah-318641_640Finding the openness in your life can be difficult because the eating disorder tends to view life in a black-and-white, rigid way. Being open to different aspects of your life can feel liberating.

While the eating disorder keeps you from being open to all sorts of aspects of life – new relationships, new foods, new feelings, etc. The question for you is how can your life change by incorporating an open approach?

Night Three – Connection:

Finding connections is a wonderful gift. This may mean building new friendships, giving yourself permission to start new relationships, or strengthening others that would enrich your life in a healthy way. For those supporting loved-ones, are you grateful for the connection that you have built on their journey towards recovery?

If this is a gift for yourself, remember that connections with others add so much joy and happiness to our life.

Night Four – Presence:

The theme of being present is a prominent one when describing goals or aspirations outside of the eating disorder. By allowing a person to numb out or not feel emotions, the eating disorder often inherently blunts the ability to feel present.

This Hanukkah, give yourself or a loved one the gift of being present in every special moment. Life is filled with good times and trying times, but these each add richness and color into our canvas of life.

Night Five – Light:

winter-530907_640After all, Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights. Light in life can mean so many different things to different people and can be added into your own life in so many ways. Maybe this means taking active steps to improve your stress management or spending more time with people that are positive, recovery-friendly influences in your life.

Perhaps it means taking needed steps towards your own eating disorder recovery that you have not been able to take before. Find the light that is needed in your journey and make this day of Hanukkah about taking steps to obtain it.

Night Six – Joy:

Joy is such a simple, yet wonderful gift to give to yourself or someone else. Instead of settling for who you’re eating disorder wants you to be, allow yourself the joy of being the individual that you are. Celebrate your blessings, the gift of life, and take advantage of opportunities to shower yourself with joy wherever you find it.

Night Seven – Self-Acceptance:

Self-acceptance is more of a journey than a gift, even for those who have never struggled with an eating disorder. At certain points in your recovery journey, the idea of truly accepting and being content with the person you are is simply incomprehensible…and this is a great place to let this wild ride evolve.

Even if you are not in a place to accept yourself, where does this journey start for you? What are some things that you can accept today? What might you be willing to accept tomorrow? Allow yourself to have pride in who you are. Know that each and every person has a gift to give to the world, but it must start by giving yourself the gift of knowing that you are enough.

Night Eight – Self-love:

branch-437501_640Perhaps this is the most special gift of all to give yourself. You are wonderful just the way you are. Your own value and what you have to offer the world does not change depending on your appearance, weight, shape, or size.

Your value is embedded within your character, ethics, and personality; these make you unique. May you continue even after this last day of Hanukkah by slowly learning to truly love the person you are today.

Enriching the Spirit of Hanukkah

I hope you are able to use this activity and message to enrich the gift-giving spirit of Hanukkah in a recovery-minded and meaningful way for yourself or a loved one. You can create other gifts or add more to each night – there is no wrong way to give symbolic gifts. May this become a tradition for your Hanukkah as it has become for us here at Renfrew.

About the Author:

Adina Fradkin, RD, LDN is the Dietitian at The Renfrew Center of Baltimore. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in nutritional sciences and dietetics, and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in nutrition and wellness through Benedictine University.

She completed her dietetic internship at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, Virginia through the Virginia Commonwealth University Health System. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What are examples of symbolic gifts of recovery that you give during Hanukkah?

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on December 18th, 2014
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